I once believed conflict to be an evil that must be avoided at all cost. Some of my misconceptions may be familiar to you:
- Conflict is bad because it means we are fighting.
- If you disagree with me or can’t see my point, you don’t “like” me.
- If we are not understanding each other, why even try?
This is just a taste of what comes to mind. The truth is we all have conflicts, even conflict resolution experts do!
I have learned that I cannot expect to end or avoid all conflict in my life. I cannot expect for everyone to agree with me or for a person in my life to agree with me on everything, every time. I can’t expect to agree with everyone or agree with anyone on everything, either. Impossible expectations bring great disappointment. When it comes to conflict, “we can run, but we can’t hide.”
Learning to embrace conflict and learning conflict resolution techniques has improved my life tremendously and made such a difference in my relationships with others.
Here are some lessons I have learned and I am working on to manage and resolve conflicts in a positive way:
1.~ CHOOSING – My dad taught me that “picking which battles to fight is the key to winning the war”. Even though we are talking about people we have a relationship with, whether it is a professional association, a friendship, a marriage, or family in general, it does feel like a warfare. Just thinking about it makes me sad, yet we get sucked into it so many times! I “pick my battles” because it’s draining and a waste of time and energy to want to resolve everything.
2.~ LISTENING – Sometimes the root of the conflict is miscommunication. I remember being in an argument and just tuning the other person completely out. How about just weaving your next answer in your head waiting for the right moment to jump in and prove them wrong? Listening can make it easier for us to change our perspective (assumptions). It’s been a humbling journey, that’s for sure!
3.~ REFLECTING – I speak three languages, and in all three, reflection is both a look inside, as a look in the mirror.
The biggest lesson for me is that our biggest contenders are our most accurate mirrors. If we listen carefully, with “loving ears”, we can find more than the other person’s point of view and their feelings…we can actually learn something valuable about ourselves. After all, validating and acknowledging someone’s feelings may be all it takes to resolve some conflicts.
4.~ SPEAKING – Speaking honestly, calmly, respectfully, with conflict resolution in mind…but nonetheless, speaking. I always play John Meyer’s lyrics “Say what you need to say”. I definitely love to speak 🙂 Keeping feelings and emotions locked inside never solved anything. I especially refrain from name-calling and hurtful words.
5.~ FOCUSING – Have you learned that being right does not make you happy? I have. Trust me, I still like to “win”, but these days I’d rather win a friend than an argument. Focus on resolving the conflict rather than playing a blame-game. Focus on the present without bringing up the past. Focus on the person, not his or her behavior. It’s an extremely difficult thing to do, but it is so worth it.
6.~ ACTING OR DISENGAGING – Mapping a course of action is a powerful conflict resolution tool. If we are both clear about what needs to be done to move forward in a positive way toward mutual happiness, then we can do so. “I understand you felt X because I didn’t X enough. If I do X more often, you will feel X instead” or something to that effect.
If we chose to fight a battle and realize it’s not going anywhere positive, there’s still time to move on. A war needs two or more parties to be fought.
It’s so enlightening to know you can disagree with someone and disapprove of their behavior and still let them know you love them, and you are there for them.
7.~ FORGIVING – I assure you that nothing gives more peace than forgiving someone who hurt you. It is especially true when they haven’t asked to be forgiven or don’t feel you have “anything” to forgive them for. Choosing to forgive someone for “no reason”, usually brings incredible clarity and, I guarantee, beautiful bliss.
If managed in a positive way, conflict is a healthy tool to grow closer to your relative, friend, associate, partner, spouse, child.
Many times I’ve thought “I’m glad we had and resolved this conflict because we had the opportunity to improve our communication, gain clarity, create a stronger bond and get a deeper understanding of each other.”
Knowing and accepting we don’t have control, learning what pushes our buttons, developing a compassionate personality, and being as prepared as possible, can help us manage situations better as they arise or catch ourselves when taking the wrong path, steering the course of the argument towards a more positive one.
What conflict management techniques have worked for you?